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Awake at 3 A.M.? What to Do

September 5, 2019
Plain English Version

Illustration Yann Bastard for The New York Times.

The latest ideas.

Remain in bed

For you to fall asleep, your heart rate needs to slow down. When you get up, your heart rate goes up. So, avoid going to the bathroom during the night if you can. It only makes your sleep pattern worse.

Stay hydrated during the day. Do not drink and fill your bladder before bed. Do not eat too little or too much for dinner. Skip the middle-of-the-night snack. Most important, avoid alcohol in the evening. It may make you fall asleep faster, but it also may disrupt your sleep later in the night.

Stay in the dark

When you cannot sleep, LED lights on printers and cable boxes may be the reason. The same is true for light streaming in through cracks in curtains. They may keep you awake. You should cover lights with tape and wear a sleep mask. a popular choice has deep eye cups so your eyes can open and shut while you wear them.)

Avoid using your smartphone and turning on the lights. If light outside your window keeps you up, here are recommendations for the best options.

Block out noise

For you to fall asleep, the room does not have to be silent. But it helps if any sound is monotonous. The steady sound pattern signals the brain that it is safe to sleep.

Some people like to sleep with a fan running. If you have a white noise machine (or an app) for bedtime, turn it on. You may want to try the LectroFan or the myNoise white noise app.

Adjust the temperature

If the room feels warm, lower the thermostat. Around 65 degrees helps sleep. Another issue is skin temperature. A cool body core and warm skin are best for sleep.  You cool your core by breathing in the cool bedroom air. You warm your skin with bedding and PJs.

Socks can also help. Feet have lots of temperature sensors. In one study the subjects with socks took half as long to fall asleep than did as those subjects without socks.

Quiet your mind

Try ways to relax, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness exercises. You can do simple math problems in your head. The point is to keep your brain busy with something that is not demanding and is relaxing.

Think positive

If your wake-up time is 6:30 a.m. and your clock reads 3:00 a.m., do not think Oh no! I have only three hours left! Instead, say to yourself, Oh great! I have three more hours to sleep!

Plenty of people do fine with less sleep on any given day. You will too.

You have a problem if you wake three times a week for more than three months.  It may affect your quality of life. You need to find a sleep expert who can help identify the cause and fix it.

If you want to follow your sleep patterns and find out what to do, try this sleep tracker.

Source: The New York Times August 30, 2019

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